The towns of Italy in the later Middle Ages

Author: Trevor Dean

The towns of later medieval Italy were one of the high points of urban society and culture in Europe before the industrial revolution. This book provides more inclusive and balanced coverage of Italian urban life in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In looking for the chief features of Italian communal cities, it focuses on: the unity of city and dependent countryside, the stability of population, urban functions, the development of public spaces, social composition, the development of autonomous institutions, and civic culture. The book begins with three of these: Bonvesin da la Riva's innovative description of Milan, Giovanni da Nono's more conventional, but lively description of Padua, and an anonymous, verse description of Genoa. It also focuses on the buildings and their decoration, and urban 'social services'. The book then addresses Italian civic religion. It explores production and commerce: the effects of monetary affluence, the guilds and markets, government interventions to stimulate production, to regulate exchange, and to control the city's population. The book deals with social groups and social tensions: popolo against magnates, noble clans against each another, men against women, young men against city elders, Christians against Jews, freemen against slaves, food riots and tax revolts, acts of resistance and indecency. Finally, it examines the great variety of political regimes in late-medieval Italy: from consolidated communes such as Florence or Venice, to stable or unstable 'tyrannies' in Pisa, Ferrara or Verona.

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